New research on the desire for esports fans to travel and spend money at live events reveals that the younger the fan, the more likely they are to attend in-person competitions and spend money on events.
The results also show that the ideal esports destination and venue provides public gaming areas as well as video displays and audio systems that make the experience worthwhile for an audience that shows it will also spend money on food, merchandise and tickets. The research was conducted by CSL International and the Esports Entry Advisory, a partnership formed by CSL, A-Game Esports and SimplyNew, and presented during the recent EsportsTravel Summit in Pittsburgh. Nearly 4,700 responses were received from esports fans around the world — including more than 1,100 from North America — in the survey that was completed in September 2021. The report follows an earlier study performed in 2020.
Among the highlights from the most recent report:
- 61 percent of gamers are interested in attending in-person esports events even though only 20 percent said they had been to one in the past. Of note, 73 percent of those 17 and younger said they would be interested attending in-person events.
- 42 percent of gamers said they would travel at least an hour to attend an in-person esports event, while 24 percent would travel at least two hours. Among gamers under age 35, more than 50 percent would drive at least an hour to attend an event compared to 30 percent of those age 35 and older.
- Gamers reported they would spend a median of $107 on in-venue items, including $37 on tickets, $40 on food and beverage and $30 on merchandise per event.
- Nearly half of gamers (49 percent) would consider paying for a hotel room to attend an esports event. But nearly 60 percent of younger gamers (24 and under) would consider paying for a hotel room.
- The game title is the most important factor for fans considering attending an event, followed by the ability to attend an event with friends. Survey respondents listed Call of Duty as their favorite game title, followed by Apex Legends and Halo.
- When asked to rank critical venue factors for in-person events, gamers said large video displays, food outlets and quality audio systems are near the top, followed closely by public gaming areas, outdoor event spaces and other onsite entertainment.
Tyler Othen, CSL’s project manager and esports practice lead, who conducted the research, said the results show opportunities exist for destinations to tap into younger markets and to consider enhancements to their own venues to allow for more creative events. “It hammered home the fact that these younger fans value esports significantly more than the older generations,” he said. “The economic impact and room night potential will continue to grow as esports becomes more of an in-person activity.”
Supply and Demand Gap
Similar to the organization’s previous research, there is a gap between those who report they want to attend an in-person esports event and those that have attended one. While 20 percent of respondents said they’ve been an in-person event, the majority of those had only attended one event. And while six in 10 gamers said they want to attend live events, that number was higher among younger generations. Nearly three in four gamers under age 17 want to attend events in person; 70 percent of those ages 25 to 34 said the same.
The fact that many of those gamers have expressed a desire to drive considerable distances and stay in a hotel room overnight is an opportunity, Othen said. Survey results showed about half of respondents said they would possibly, likely or definitely stay in a hotel to attend an in-person event. Of those who said they would pay for a hotel, 37 percent said they would spend $91 or more a night. “When you start coupling those together there’s a real audience for this,” he said.
One reason given for the discrepancy in those wanting to attend events and those that have yet to attend events could be the slowdown in live events caused by the pandemic, when many esports organizations began retreating to their online roots. But responses from those surveyed also revealed a feeling that not enough events exist outside the major competitions on the East or West coasts, something that could be an advantage for certain destinations, Othen said.
“There’s really an opportunity to succeed if you know how to market to the esports communities in your destinations.”
—Tyler Othen, CSL International
“There’s an opportunity in a lot of Midwestern markets or secondary markets with their host facilities, most of which are ready to host events,” he said, noting that esports competitions can be staged in convention centers or hotel ballrooms. “There’s really an opportunity to succeed if you know how to market to the esports communities in your destinations.”
To that point, the research suggests destinations should get to know the games that are popular in their locations. Gamers reported the game title is the primary driver in their desire to attend an in-person event. And with the popularity of game titles changing year to year, cities will need to stay on top of what their local communities find important. “This is content driven,” said Angela Bernhard Thomas of A-Game Eports, a partner in the study. “Be aware of what titles are most successful. Do your due diligence.”
Esports fans also report they are interested in a more dynamic live event experience, a trend that is showing up among traditional sports fans as well. The survey noted that fans are willing to spend considerable amounts of food and beverage, especially since esports events can last all day.
But the use of outdoor spaces and the presence of other onsite entertainment ranked highly among the desires of esports fans, aspects that were nearly as important and the quality video and audio displays that they expect on site as well. “It’s just a reinvention of your typical notion of an enclosed facility,” Othen said.